How often have you reached (what you thought was) the end of a project, only for your customer to turn around and ask: “But what about X?” In their mind, your customer either believes ‘X’ is within the scope of the project, or they don’t realise they’re asking for more than you originally agreed.
Scope creep is all of those little add-ons that somehow work their way into a project, taking up extra time and resources. Worse, it happens in a way that you can’t bill for, eating into your profit margins.
To protect your agency’s profits, today I’m looking at 5 things you can do to reduce scope creep on your projects.
How to Reduce Scope Creep
1) Understand the outcome
Before you start work on your latest project, it’s essential that you kick-off with a roadmapping session with your customer.
It’s common for customers to think they need everything – every feature, full functionality – without understanding their actual requirements. This initial session will allow you to challenge your customer’s assumptions about what they need, and align the work you will be doing with their business aims.
For example, rather than “I need a complete website redesign” (vague: wide scope), it becomes “I need a mobile-responsive website because our percentage of mobile traffic has increased X% in the last six months but we’ve not made a single sale through mobile” (specific: narrow scope).
This helps you identify what is essential for the project, what would be nice to have, and what the customer thinks they need but actually doesn’t.
2) Clearly define the scope of your work
Once you and your customer have agreed on the scope of the project, it’s clear that you put it in writing. You contract needs to clearly define and set expectations of the outcomes of your project, and you need to ensure that your customer clearly understands what they will be paying for – whether that’s hours worked or precise deliverables – and what is outside of the project’s scope, which they would have to pay extra for.
3) Be agile
Adopting an agile approach to managing your project will allow for greater flexibility and a clear focus on your customer’s needs.
Working in short sprints makes it easier for your team to keep on-track with the project, and means your customer can regularly review and evaluate the work you are doing. This means that if your customer’s requirements suddenly change, you’ll be able to avoid wasting time and resource creating something your customer doesn’t want.
Communication with your customer is vital for reducing scope creep. It will keep you in the loop if (when) anything changes from your initial set of agreed requirements, so you can react accordingly.
And it keeps your customer up-to-date with progress on the project so they can review as you go along. This mitigates the risk of you reaching the end of the project and them asking about feature X or Y, because they’ll already know that features X and Y were left out as a result of a discussion where you both agreed they were unnecessary.
Finally, if you’re still suffering from scope creep even after implementing all of the measures above, you need to react to it. Your contract should have made it clear that you would charge for add-ons not in the original scope, so if a customer persists in pushing through little extras, make sure you do just that.
And be rigorous. If you’ve allowed for scope creep with one customer, that sets a precedent for others. Don’t be tempted to make an exception ‘just this once’, because come the next project with the next customer, you’ll experience the same thing.
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